Listening to a programme on Radio 4 this morning I paid closer attention than usual to his words. We all know of the I Have a Dream speech and mighty fine it is, too. However, it was his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech that stuck in my head today, especially this line:
I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him.
Of course, Dr King, said so many pertinent things, but this is the idea that is music to my sociological ears, that man (or woman) does not have to be defined by social structures, no matter how restrictive and how tyrannical, that we all have the individual agency to make a difference, whatever that cause may be. We all have the capacity to make a difference in people’s lives, to the environment, politically, educationally, culturally and socially.
Dr King was right, we are not there simply to be at the mercy of the whims of others, we are there to have an impact, to create positive change, and to contribute to the world around us as best we can, and sometimes that involves a fight.
The BBC has paid a pictorial tribute to his life here.